Football, as we all know, is about fine lines and small margins. Well, here’s a measurement that is small in one sense and significantly large in another.
The average height of a Sheffield United footballer is considerably under 6 feet. In fact, it’s around 5’ 10” or even a touch below. And, if you’ll forgive the pun, that shows what Nigel Adkins has been up against as he looks to shape a promotion squad.
This column has been kept up at night researching the figures and doing the maths. It should get out more, I know!
Doubtless no-one will be shocked by the findings. The Blades, in belying their brawny reputation of previous eras, are quite a small team these days. In fact, very small.
And that will undoubtedly concern Adkins as he aims to correct an imbalance that has played against his side in more than a few games this season.
To rephrase the old saying – never mind the quality, feel the height.
A lack of it can undermine United in both areas, especially at set pieces which are vital when the percentages are worked out. The shock 4-0 opening day defeat at Gillingham confirmed that and, despite a team regroup immediately afterwards, Adkins’ side continued conceding too many goals for comfort up to beating Doncaster 3-1 and sharing a 0-0 with surprise leaders Burton.
While I have defended Nigel Clough, and will continue to do so in terms of his overall record, the size issue is an unfortunate legacy for Adkins.
Having trawled the internet for statistical information on average height for footballers, I have just last season’s Premier League for comparison.
It was a shade over 5’ 11” – or 6 foot as near as damn it.
We are talking League One here and it’s a fair bet the average is similar or more. After all, it’s a different game at this level, a good deal of it aerial combat rather than fancy footwork.
And an inch or two can make a huge difference in those crowded areas.
United have used 21 outfield players in the league this season.
Of the 17 whose height details are available publicly, the average, as aforementioned, is 5’ 10”.
There wouldn’t be much change across all 21 considering the players whose measurements could not be found were Louis Reed, Che Adams, Kieran Wallace and Callum McFadzean.
Even including the goalkeeper would not make a deal of difference as Mark Howard is among the smaller of his trade at 6 foot exactly.
And so to the two players who have ebeen most strongly linked with loan moves to Bramall Lane. Fulham centre back Dan Burn is 6’ 6” and, perhaps more significantly, midfield target Dean Hammond of Leicester City is a sturdy six-footer.
It’s not to say that there’s any kind of height discrimination against talented players but it’s fair to say that Adkins needs United to measure up - rather than down.